We’re really delighted that one of London’s leading teachers and teacher trainers, Jeff Phenix, will begin teaching at Yoga West in April. Jeff has been teaching yoga for over 15-years. He is recognised as one of the leading teachers working in London today.
Starting from Wednesday 18 of April Jeff will teach an 8pm Flow & Restore class level 1-2. Starting from Tuesday 8 of May Jeff will also take on an open level vinyasa flow class from 12:05-13:05pm.
We strongly recommend you join Jeff at one or both of his two classes, if you can. If you’d like to find out a bit more about him please read our interview with him below.
How did you get into yoga?
I actually started meditating first before practicing yoga. I tried both while travelling after Uni in the mid 90’s in Asia with my girlfriend, now wife, Jennie. We were camping on the Andaman Islands, which is a remote group of pretty uninhabited Indian islands that are not far from Myanmar and one of my new friends, whom I met on the boat over there, would practice yoga on the beach so i asked him to teach me some and he just did a short little class with a lovely savasana and it blew me away and something just clicked. So thank you Frazer wherever you are!
Was there a moment when you realised you wanted to pursue yoga seriously?
My practice just grew organically. There have been ups and downs but i have always practiced fairly regularly. Jennie thought I was nuts when later on on that same trip, we stayed at an ashram in the famous Indian spiritual town of Rishikesh, which is on the Ganges river and I would get up at 5am to practice yoga instead of staying in bed but I loved how it made me feel so was happy to do this.
It was Jennie that suggested about 5 years later when back in the UK and I wasn’t happy doing my 9 to 5 office job that i should do what I was passionate about and be a yoga teacher. I still remember this strong feeling that ‘Oh no I wouldn’t be able to do that, I’m too shy and not confident enough etc’. But then the seed had been planted and I thought that maybe it could be possible. Luckily she said to just do the training and she could support us financially while I found my feet. Initially it was very hard to make it work, I even tried working part time and teaching part time but I much preferred teaching full time and slowly I started to establish myself and I have now been teaching for over 15 years.
How has yoga changed you?
Yoga has had a massive impact on my life and is right up there along with meeting and being with my wife for 25 years now and having kids. It re-centres and focuses me and connects me to my essence. Any sense of being this worried, stressed, separate, individual self dissolves into this beautiful, delightful sense of oneness with the universe. I just know that everything is ok and it is all just a divine play, or ‘Lila”. This shift of perspective is such a relief as I think that this modern life sucks us into an inaccurate way of thinking and being.
Erich Schiffmann uses the metaphor that we think and identity ourselves as being like a separate individual wave on the surface of the ocean – we have a limited concept of Self – instead of realising and experiencing our totality as this vast, beautiful, mysterious ocean.
What’s your advice to people considering starting yoga?
Just practice regularly and consistently and magic happens! Don’t make and listen to the excuses, just get on and do it. There is a part of you that is scared of change and transformation, that prefers the status quo. There will be ups and downs, dry periods and plateaus, and times when you fall off the wagon and then loose momentum and the positive habit – ‘couch potato asana’ can be so tempting… but remembering whats important and your goals and having a strong unwavering intention and desire can move mountains.
Will power and self discipline is like a muscle that needs to be trained or it becomes weak. Water can flow in scattered rivulets down a hillside without much force but if you channel that flow – then the force becomes powerful and tremendous and you can achieve great things.
Do you have a favourite yoga quote?
Seize the day and start each day fresh and new and make it special…. and mean what you say and say what you mean.
What is your approach to teaching?
I love exploring and playing with different ways to experience yoga. Discovering new things and getting others to experience those ‘light bulb’ moments. I like to shift and transform my awareness and that of my students. I want them to explore and gently push into their ‘edge’ and the unknown but I always respect that people go at their own pace and sometimes just want to be gentler and mellower. So I like to be inclusive and give different options in my classes and retreats so that people can choose to work at the level of difficulty/intensity or challenge that suits them on the day and find their own yoga.
It took me years to work out that you can go deeper and do more when you relax and don’t try so hard from a place of ego and over-effort. Just relax and trust and be guided by your breath, the sensations, your intuition and the Universe. Part of the reason I enjoy teaching on retreats so much is that we have the time to really immerse in consistent practice and go much deeper than in a normal class situation. This gives people an opportunity to get out of their normal routine, explore more deeply and to really see their habitual patterns and release their ‘stuff’ and transform – using not just the physical asana practice but the whole spectrum of yoga practices including pranayama and meditation.
I want to help my students experience the essence of yoga. To realise that there is so much more than just doing a physical practice and even though it’s fun to conquer poses like hand stands – we can increase the flow of energy through the body, awaken the subtle energetic body or what Donna Holleman calls ‘awakening the body of light’ and develop this quality they call in Zen of ‘ beginners mind’ and come out of living on ‘auto pilot’.
Ultimately its about learning how to be more mindful, peaceful and loving – bringing the yoga off the mat into every day life and realising our fullest potential and bringing a freshness and the best most authentic version of ourselves to the day and life.
Is there anything else outside yoga that would be interesting to share?
I love music and dance, riding my motorcycle to zip in and out of London to spend time in Bucks where I live with my family and our dog. As I was born in the tropics I also love escaping the winter for some sun in Feb, usually teaching retreats in Goa!